Help Design MotoringFile’s 2014 F56 MINI

For the third year running, MINI USA is providing MotoringFile with a long-term test car. Last year, it was a JCW Roadster soft top filled with premium touches. We’ll have our final thoughts for you on that car here very soon. Before the Roadster, we spent a year with a Cooper S Countryman ALL4 doing the school run and everything in between. Now it’s time to put the F56 — the newest generation MINI Hardtop Hatch — through its long-term paces. The question is, however, how do we spec the car? That’s where you come in. We need your help. Sure, Nathaniel and I could just spec the car ourselves, but we want your input on options, colors, fabric — everything. What are your must-have details? We want your input so that the MF test car gives us the best cross-section of features that MINI enthusiasts want to see put through the long-term ringer.

Here’s how to help:

  • Go to and use the configurator to build your MF test car spec
  • Download an image of the car you’ve spec’d
  • Post that photo in a comment below and then give us a brief explanation of why yours is the way we should go
  • Then everyone use the up-vote/down-vote functionality built into Disqus to tell use your preferences

That’s the what. Now how about the when? Once we get your ideas, we’ll create the final spec and order the car through MINI USA. We’re told our build-date should be sometime this spring, making the latest MotoringFile MINI one of the first F56s to come to the USA.

Now get building. Start here: MINI USA Configurator

Also, you can look at our previous long-term loaner experiences in the MotoringFile Garage Section.

  • Kev50027

    If given an F56 for a year for free.. I think I’d pass. I keep thinking maybe I’ve come around, then go spec out a car and remember all of the things that turned me off about this new car. The interior is nicer, but why the heck did they shrink the RPM gauge so much in a car that’s so popular with those who like to shift their own gears manually? The look of the standard radio in that huge circle is simply awful, at least the R56 standard radio looks like it belongs in the circle, that thing looks like an afterthought.The car looks OK from the front.. I mean I don’t like the plastic tongue it’s sticking out at me or the hideous childish rings around the lights (if these went all the way around it would look good), but it’s growing on me a bit. Still.. the back. Those lights. That front overhang. Finally, the lack of clutch feel I’m hearing about worries me a lot.

    Anyway I don’t expect you to agree with me, (MotoringFile isnt exactly unbiased, after all) but I would love to hear your response to my concerns in an upcoming review.


    • lawrothegreat

      I think that I will stick with the F56 that I’ve ordered rather than this one! 🙂

    • GJCoon

      In this day in age people usually spec with a Nav or at least a system compatible with the latest phones as a GUI in color, so the radio is an afterthought and as it should be- it is more than likely going to be faded out with the LCI.

      As for the RPM gauge being smaller- who cares? It doesn’t need to be big unless visually impaired- then driving is not something you should be doing. Just because something is bigger doesn’t make it better plus if you know how the engine feels across the band a tach is a moot point and is a really only there for verifying what you already should know.

      Design progress is always subject to opinion- but crash safety will continue to play a role in it all and cars will no longer be able to be designed solely on looks or proportions, there must be gives and takes.

      Clutch feel will continue to decreased unless you are in a car designed to be performance oriented as its primary characteristic as the masses of consumers want more and more isolation- Lotus or a Porsche GT3 are it; with most manuals going the way of the dodo as fuel economy suffers with them- even the newest Vette lacks clutch feel.

      Some are still missing the point- if MINI doesn’t become more mainstream it simply can’t exist at its current (expensive) price point it will either need to go down market and become cheaply made or become higher cost as it is brand that has a limited market segment without expansion and without compromise. The Countryman has been a godsend as is the four door hatch. MINI needs more high volume products to stay alive.

      Sharing parts with BMW will help in the volume area and allow a much more finished and high end product to come to market at a similar price point.

      MF has been able to call out MINI and express its honest view- like the Countryman and how it should never have been offered in All Four with the manual or the death rattle debacle so I trust the opinion and views as this site is run in a manner that is unbiased.

      I’m holding out until the Clubman is offered in a plug in hybrid as to me the rest of the MINI lineup is over priced (still) but the new interior is a huge improvement over the past 2 generations. The progress is there but the price point is not for me- there is more value to be had elsewhere while MINI as a whole is more passionate I rather get more for buck and spend my passion elsewhere.

      • Kev50027

        For those who get a MINI because it’s a blast to drive and won’t use it as a daily driver, the radio matters, because they will get it bare-bones. Why bother with a GPS in a car you just drive for fun? Why bother with a GPS when a better one is in your pocket already?

        About the RPM gauge: I care. I use my MINI’s RPM gauge all the time. If you’ve ever driven a car with music on, you know that you need an RPM gauge that’s easy to read. Plus, a large RPM gauge is a way of paying homage to those who drive a manual MINI, and homage to the original car. Your argument on this point makes no sense. I’m not blind, don’t insult me.

        Clutch feel will continue to decrease? Says who? That may be on cars designed for non-enthusiasts, but MINIs are designed for driving enthusiasts, so why not give them what they want? I remember driving a VW GTI that had no clutch feel. I stalled it twice because there was no way of knowing when the clutch was engaging. It just makes the car harder to drive, not easier. If certain people don’t have a strong enough leg to push the clutch in, they can drive an automatic.

        You are completely wrong about MINI becoming mainstream. MINI doesn’t have to do anything, their sales were strong before the countryman. They made the Countryman to boost sales further, but why does that mean they have to water down the car that enthusiasts get? If you know anything about MINI, you know they’re doing well, they’ve sold extremely well since they were first introduced, so I have no clue what the heck you’re talking about here.

        I said MotoringFile is biased because that’s my opinion. Even their complaints are worded in a complimentary way, they’re MINI fanboys. That’s okay, there’s nothing wrong with that at all, but people should know that before reading a review.

        A plug in hybrid clubman sounds fine to me, as long as they don’t force everyone to get a hybrid I’m fine, you environmentalists can have your (lack of) fun. What frustrates me is watering down the core car that the rest of the range is based off of. It’s fine if people want a MINI van or a MINI pickup truck, make whatever you want, but if you make the MINI hatch bigger and bigger, it’s no longer mini..or even small. It loses one of the key things that made it unique in the first place, and its own namesake.

        • Nothing we write, on any subject, will ever meet the internet’s definition of criticism. That is, “you’re biased unless you only highlight something’s faults in the most caustic, hyperbolic way possible.” Neither Gabe nor I every write that way because it’s misleading, but mostly because it’s lazy. We’re MINI fans for sure, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing this, but to say we’re not objective simply isn’t an accurate description of the work we’ve done here.

        • Kev50027

          Hi Nathaniel, thanks for responding.

          I think you misunderstand me. As a stakeholder in MINI (you’re a stakeholder because you own a MINI/love the brand), you want the brand to succeed, and as such, you’re more likely to overlook issues that others may consider important. I’m not insulting you or your website in the least, I’m simply pointing out that this is a blog created by MINI lovers for MINI lovers.

          You guys are as objective as a stakeholder in the brand you cover can be. I’m not disrespecting your work or the website in the least, simply pointing out that to get a better overall view of MINIs, it’s probably a good idea to read both your coverage and the coverage from others who are not MINI owners.

          Have a great day!

        • What l I take issue with is you assuming to know my motivations – as though you have them as fact. What you’re saying is certainly reasonable, but I’m here to tell you that as the actual person in question, your “opinion” of my motivations is incorrect. You are welcome to conjecture as to why I do what I do, but of the two of us, I’m the one who actually knows. As point of fact I am biased, but my bias is not toward MINI. My bias is toward not being cynical. What the Internet tends to label and reward as “criticism” is actually just focused cynicism. Specifically a cynicism that no one actually likes anything without some sort of underlying agenda. This is pretty much exactly what you’ve described, albeit in a kinder way, which I appreciate. I still reject this approach, however, and along with it all the hyperbole in the negative that so many hide behind. I simply don’t write that way anymore, regardless of the subject. Especially since as a columnist and journalist, as opposed to a commenter, that’s not my relationship with the subject at hand.

        • Kev50027

          Hi Nathaniel,

          Am I wrong that you write for this site because you love MINIs? If you don’t love MINI’s, might want to find another hobby 🙂

          I don’t consider myself cynical, more of a realist, since realistically you like MINIs for a reason, and that same reason gives you a different viewpoint than someone who doesn’t like MINI’s. It’s really that simple.

          Everyone is biased, it’s a fact of life, and it’s no big deal, but it helps to find out their biases before taking everything they say at face value. Me? I love MINIs too, so I would recommend them to a friend, even though my 3 year old car has already been in to get 2 fixes done due to recalls, and MINI service implied that I drove the car incorrectly when in fact it was their fault. I’m willing to overlook the poor experience I’ve had with MINI service and reliability due to the fact that when I push the sport button and rev my car up to hear the pops and burbles, I smile. I overlook the poor experience because when I drive around corners, my car holds onto the road unlike both of my previous cars, a BMW Z3 and Z4, which were far more expensive and faster cars, yet weren’t as fun to take around corners. I’m biased.

          I’ve enjoyed discussing this issue with you, and I truly hope I did not insult you in any way. Keep up the good work!

          I do have one minor suggestion: When responding to messages on here from those who know little about MINIs, it may be a good idea to try to be welcoming to newcomers, rather than saying something equivalent to “Duh, the answer is …” Not saying you do this, but I’ve seen it done on here and it really turns those new to the brand away from this community. Thanks!

        • lawrothegreat

          We’re all MINI fans which is why we’re all on here. MINIs aren’t perfect but I think that all issues are discussed and given space. I don’t think the F56 design is perfect, however I suspect that it will impress far more in the flesh than originally thought. I would agree that the standard screen is poor, and I’m looking forward to my XL screen, but MINI has always been about options. The original R50 didn’t even come with the on board computer with digital speedometer as standard. I also think that MINIs are the main car for most people, me included. My wife’s car is a Z3 not an estate so like many people I need the MINI to be good across the board. I also hope the clutch isn’t too light, but on the whole reviews (not just MF but all motoring journalists) are praising the F56 for being even more involving than the R56. The reality is current engineering doesn’t allow us to match the level of ‘feel’ that we had from heroic hot hatchbacks such as the 1980’s Peugeot 205 GTi 1.9 or the 1990’s Renault Clio Williams. But hey I’ve got adaptive suspension and a heads up display and in the real modern world that’s a boon. I can always buy a Caterham or even a motorbike if that’s what I want.

        • BimmerFile_Michael

          You get it and best of luck with your new car!

        • BimmerFile_Michael

          If you think/thought MINI was fine before the Countryman I am sorry to say you are misinformed. A company barley keeping the lights on is not fine. Sales were not great outside the hatch and the hatch is not a brand. MINI was supposed to be BMW’s volume seller- never happened. The reason for MINI expanding into niche products is an attempt at any sale to cover costs. If you read press releases about how big of a hit MINI has been you are reading spin.

          More MINIs are driven by people that like the fashion/design behind it than the performance 7/10 or thereabouts and those are the same people that have complained about the switch placement and the center mount speedo – guess who is the more important customer; the mainstream buyer (the masses). BMW never wanted to go front wheel drive; that was MINI was for, BMW is now going FWD because MINI never reached the necessary economies of scale to be truly viable. Most MINI drivers use there MINI as a daily driver and not as an extra car, they are not Miatas. Where I work there are six in the lot- each driven daily and each one is driven by someone who cares more about the looks than the “go kart handling”; I’ve asked. My wife drives a clubman because she likes the style and none of them have ever heard of or been to this site (outside my wife) just a small cross section but it seems to me that enthusiasts are not the target market, maybe to the surprise of some here?

          The Countryman is the one saving grace for MINI as it is a volume seller and the cheapest to build making it a huge cash cow relative to the other models. As for watering the brand down: it has to be done and it will be to reach economies of scale. Enthusiasts will have the JCW and GP lines and if you can’t afford it then go buy something else because you are not the target audience. All car companies do this, it is the way industry works ask a BMW fan or even a VW fan, how about Mustangs, Porsches and ‘Vettes they are all watered down at the entry level and that is the point. There are target demographics and cars are designed to hit them and are tested via focus groups as is everything you buy.

          As for the plugin hybrid- it just may be the fastest MINI to date. But the real reason for it is to boost sales in the UK, China and in California as those locales have significant incentives for people to drive cars that have electric only modes. No one is forcing anyone to buy it but at least it is an option for those that it will benefit.

          The F56 is incrementally larger and much more usable, not to mention safer and meets more recent standards as the R56 would never have been able to be built by todays’ standards so you really can’t blame MINI for that.

          Wh yard you driving a MINI with the music on? I thought all enthusiasts turned off the radio to listen to the exhaust note? (just kidding around but people used to tell me this all the time bc I had the Individual Audio system in my M3).

  • Mark Rosenthal

    Thunder Gray – because GP, plus an interior unlike you will ever see on any dealer lot.

  • Matt Korr
  • James M

    So this is the MINI Cooper S i think should be MotoringFile’s 2014 car.

    The exterior has been inspired by the classic Mini Cooper S that Chris Hemsworth drives whilst playing James Hunt in the Movie Rush. A Deep Blue exterior is complemented with a white roof and as much chrome as possible with the Flash package. The exterior is finished off with 16″ Black Victory Spoke to create a chunky tyre’d period look. To really finish off the exterior style add vinyl white circle on the doors.

    The chassis is equipped with sports suspension which could be interesting with the 16″ wheels with regards to the ride comfort, steering feel and chassis roll.

    Naturally the car is equipped with the LED headlights to see how they compare to the previous generations Xenos.

    Interior is quite simple to keep the focus on the driving. Leatherette/Cloth: Black Pearl seats as the look funky and are the most “not normal” choice. Anthracite Headliner as it creates the performance aura within the interior. The steering wheel is JCW multifunction version with the red stitching. Storage package as cargo nets are cool, standard A/C rather that the Auto Climate Control as it seems excessive in a small car. The basic display is kept, rather than one of the big screens to keep the focus on the road. Driving modes for pops and bangs and to see how economical the new engine is on a steady cruise. The external chrome is carried to the interior with the Chrome line package and this is accentuated against the Piano Black Dash Surface.

    I hope you like it MotoringFile, Keep up the good work.


    • James M

      That didn’t quite post as i intended (with 2 pictures) so here’s a picture of the F56 described above.

  • Simon Chartrand

    Sorry MF, we can help you with this. F56 is Fucked-Up Beyond All Repair.

  • Brendan OConnor

    Hey Guys! This is a fully loaded MINI with all of the new tech that they have on offer. But it styled with a bit of classic British car in mind. I really like the new wood grain dash with brown leather interior. You can also never go wrong with British Racing Green. I hope you like it!

  • oldsbear

    I haven’t noticed mention of this: in the F56 is the lumbar support still supplied only with leather seating?

  • R.O

    Ok, here is my design for Motoringfile. It’s not how I would design it for me as my likes are quite different from the Editors of Motoringfile. For me I wouldn’t get Nav, as it comes with Mini Connected – I have no need for that crap (my opinion), It’s understood that the editors (and majority of readers) are techno junkies and love all the connected stuff. I on the other hand am not into social networking or smartphones, etc.

    I did config with Auto and paddles. I didn’t add heated seats (don’t need that where I live.) I didn’t add the HK sound system as a CD player is no longer standard (MPS3 wasted with HK sound system) and CD changer takes up to much room in glove box.

    Color – Volcanic Orange – Best Color Mini has every made! . I would get the 16″ rims but since Motoring file is “buying” I’ll go with the 17’s. Also, I don’t like white turn signals but have no choice as it comes with pkg. Also no sunroof (I hate sun/moon roofs). Didn’t get the heads-up display as Gabe noted that you can’t see the info when wearing polarized sunglasses, so that makes it useless. Did get inside and outside Auto Dim mirrors since most vehicles these days have the blinding Xenon or High Def. lights.

    Paint & Exterior Volcanic Orange Body Color STD Black Bonnet Stripes Black Roof/Mirrors

    Wheels 17″ Black Cosmos Spoke $750.00 All-Season Tires

    Interior Black Checkered Dash Surface STD JCW Leather Steering Wheel w/Multifunction Shadow Gray Color Line Cross Leather: Punch Carbon Black Sport Seats STD Standard Floor Mats

    Packages Wired Package Center Armrest Comfort Bluetooth with USB/iPod Adapt. MINI Connected XL Navigation System Real Time Traffic Information Rear-view Camera + PDC

    Performance 2.0L TwinPower Turbocharged Engine STD 6-Speed Automatic with Paddle Shifters MINI Driving Modes Toggle Ignition Dynamic Damper Control Performance Control Auto Dimming Mirrors Auto Dimming Rear View Mirror Heated Mirrors & Washer Jets STD Heated Powerfold Mirrors & Washer Jets LED Headlights with Cornering Lights LED Fog Lamps Rain Sensor and Auto Headlamps White Turn Signals Rear Fog Lights

    Audio & Tech Alarm System Automatic Climate Control On-Board Computer STD Rear Park Distance Control INCL Storage Package


  • oldsbear

    Do the electronic widgets have any form of future-proofing?

  • devdev

    Here is my pick for MF. This is simply a manual Cooper with sport suspension and a modest amount of “toys”. For those of us looking for an economical and more fuel efficient option I the Cooper fits well. It would be nice to test the new 3 cylinder engine long term. Take a look at the specs and let me know what you think. 🙂

  • oldsbear

    My configuration is a basic one most readers could afford. It would be a fun, relatively affordable ride, and safer than a stripper S. I would love it, but I suspect Motoringfile would not, because it does not allow for testing and reporting on the various options, and playing with the very useful infotainment tools. (I’m also thinking of resale value when technology changes.)

    The Volcanic Orange would mean an automatic mood boost every morning. That’s why we have a Chili Red and a Mellow Yellow in our garage. Black or gray mirror caps would have been ideal because of the bugs we murder in the summer, but that’s not on the configurator. The base wheels are practical. I think they would be the easiest to keep clean. If there had been a choice with fewer spokes, I probably would have chosen it. All-season tires: it’s a pain to change tires with the changing seasons.

    Inside: the anthracite headliner is a ripoff, but it doesn’t show dirt and stains, so I’m for that. Include leatherette/cloth seats for lumbar support (I hope), durability on the bolsters, and breathable seat surfaces, rather than sweaty or freezing ones. Heated seats are a real comfort, and fold-away mirrors save space in a crowded garage; keep the Cold Weather package. No sunroof: I don’t like heat, and I hate the sun in my eyes.

    No HK radio; I’d rather listen to the engine. My MINIs have not been great as music halls, anyway, even with the premium sound systems.

    LED headlights are for safety, as are the rear fog lamps, which are reassuring in heavy rain and snow, not just fog. The sport and damper suspension sound nice, but the sport suspension in our present MINIs is really challenged by bad pavement and potholes. So is my back.

    The storage package should make the boot more usable on grocery trips.

    The total price is $ 27,095 + tax and license. This configuration provides all the fun (the driving part, which is what MINI is about for me) with less pocketbook pain.

  • Jason

    I’d love to get a long-term review of the Black Pearl seats (how they wear in, how easy they are to keep clean, etc) and the wired package.

  • RKCA1

    I would ask that you choose every single options possible to get on the car. This way you can provide first hand opinions of the options for those of us that have questions about how well a feature works or doesn’t work.

  • otter

    Just grey, like a grey flannel suit it is always appropriate & never goes out of style; plus, I am not into the two color paint or vinyl stripes. Understated = under the radar. Same goes for the interior, anthracite headliner and piano black dash, the MINI is already whimsical enough. I’m not much on any of the wheels but I like more tire on my rims so the 17’s are out, where are the gunmetal wheels? As to the rest, not a fan of auto climate control, have had it, have it now, don’t like it. Navi and connect, why? My phone can do almost all of it, and can be easily/cheaply replaced. Finally, a sunroof is a must; some air and sun without having to hear or smell others in traffic is priceless. Oh, and a manual transmission of course.

  • Jaret Johnson

    This is my next, but if you guys choose mine, I will live vicariously through your decision until that time comes 🙂 I’m all about the new technology, so this car is loaded with the goodies. I know this will most likely endure some of Chicago’s finest weather, so heated seats are also necessity.

  • donburnside

    Do what you like, just make it a Cooper.

  • Aero

    Things I would really like to know (aka MF should try out for a year) prior to potentially getting an F56 in 2015-16/ my Recommendations for the MF F56 are:

    F56 Justa – Will the 3cyl provide enough “fun” Volcanic Orange w/ Black Top- How does this color work for an everyday car aka will it get annoying later?

    17″ Black Wheels – Do 17″ work or is bigger recommended (proportion wise)? Leather/Cloth Diamond Black – Lounge seats are awesome, but are these good enough? Dark Cotton Wood Interior pack with Truffle – Hows does this look IRL (classy?) Fully Loaded pack w/ heads up – Is the FL pack enough or would it be better to go al la carte and what is the HUD like? Steptronic Automatic – I know lame, but my wife doesn’t want to commit to shifting all the time Damper Control – How does it ride and how reliable is it? Sport Suspension – Does the SS make up for not being an S on the everyday commute LED fogs – Do they match the LED Headlamps Rear fog – a must for my MINIs Total $28,595

    Pricey, but it would answer pretty much everything I want to know about the F56.

  • IowaM1N1

    OK, here is “WRR Black Ops”, a Cooper (yes, Cooper!) in Midnight Black (since Gabe will insist, per WRR 502), with cloth seats (for sweaty WRR correspondents on MTTS, also per WRR 502), with every single new technology available for the WRR to geek out on.

    Black with white trim didn’t look right, so went murdered out with black trim and black 17s.

    Only $32k!

    Why this car? I really want to hear about how the new 1.5L Turbo 3 works in real life. Plus all this new fascinating technology — how does it work together and how does it enhance the Motoring experience?